Despite its reputation as a blue state, California is of paramount importance to Republicans aiming to maintain control in the House of Representatives past this election cycle. As the slogan goes, “hold onto California, hold onto the House”.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, the third ranking Republican and a native son of the Central Valley, has been hard at work crafting a plan to not only maintain but pick up seats in the Golden State. The critical push for election 2012 is no easy task, and Republicans aren’t the only ones eyeing California’s congressional seats. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a former California Democratic Party Chair, has been adamant in her quest to win back the House and Speaker’s gavel. Her plan is centered around winning 25 seats this cycle, the number needed to regain the majority in the lower chamber, and as she often states “the road to the majority runs through California”.
Of California’s 53 seats, Democrats currently hold 34. A clear advantage, but not enough to regain majority status unless they find a way to win most of the open seats this cycle.
Republicans need to work hard at rebuilding- registered Republicans in the state account for just 30 percent of the total electorate, while Democrats and Independents make up 43 percent and 21 percent respectively.
McCarthy too has a plan in place. He has been recruiting and advising a hand selected group of California candidates for his national Young Guns program, which uses an established list of campaign goals that candidates must meet at each level.
A recent National Review article lists seven of McCarthy’s high-profile candidates- three of which are expected to win in their races.
David Valadao, a 35-year-old state assemblyman and son of immigrant farmers from Portugal, looks like a lock in California’s 21st district, which is an open seat in an area where Democrats have the registration edge. Valadao is running against a poorly financed liberal.
Strickland and LaMalfa, who were McCarthy’s allies in the state legislature, are also running for open seats that are expected to go Republican. Strickland, who is running as a reformer and taxpayer advocate, is being opposed by a Democrat who entered the race late.
Other McCarthy-tapped Young Guns include Kim Vann, a pro-choice county supervisor, who is challenging incumbent Democrat John Garamendi, and Ricky Gill, a family farmer, who is challenging Representative Jerry McNerney, a potentially vulnerable Valley Democrat.
Businessmen John Tavaglione (CA-41) and Gary DeLong (CA-47) are also Young Guns, as is former lieutenant governor Abel Maldonado (CA-23).
The program boasts a diverse group of candidates that have the crossover appeal necessary to win in a state like California.
McCarthy’s plans to rebuild and re-energize the base don’t just stop there. He has also formed a Trailblazer program that looks to replicate the success of the national Young Guns at the state level over the next two and a half years.